how to blog well. At least a couple of those tips are in play today. Specifically, make friends, and guest post up.
In planning for our upcoming family vacation, I was searching for information on Iceland. I’ve been there on a stopover a couple times before, but not with kids and not in ten years. One of the first sites I found was Life With a View, a visually stunning blog full of Icelandic travel advice and photography by an American expat, Jeannie.
I reached out to Jeannie (make friends) and asked if she would be willing to write a guest post for this site. While Icelandic travel may be a bit outside the norm of what we usually discuss here, we do talk about living a life less ordinary, spending on experiences, and doing so without breaking the bank.
It just so happens that I scored a great deal on some round trip tickets to Paris, and in one week, our family of four will be spending 48 hours in the majestic geothermal island known as Ísland by the natives. The following will serve as a guide in planning our adventures, and I strongly encourage anyone crossing the pond to spend some time there en route.
Thank you so much for the guide, Jeannie!
Complete Guide to a 48 Hour Stopover in Reykjavik
Iceland is quickly becoming one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. And with good reason — there’s not much the beautiful country doesn’t have! Huge waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers and volcanoes – there’s something for everyone!
A lot of flights between North America and Europe layover in Iceland because of it’s convenient location between. Icelandair also offers a stopover deal that lets travelers spend up to seven days in Iceland at no extra charge!
Lucky for you we are going to discuss everything you would need to enjoy a stopover in Reykjavik!
» How to get to Reykjavik from Keflavik airport
Rent a car
- There are a lot of options right in the Keflavik Airport. If you’re taking this option, make sure you consider certain factors such as 2WD vs 4WD (based on time of year), navigation, and type of vehicle.
- Purchase tickets online, on Icelandair flight, or upon arrival
- Keflavik to downtown Reykjavik – 2500 ISK / ≈23 USD
- Keflavik to your hotel – 3000 ISK / ≈28 USD
- 45 minute ride
- Free wi-fi
- Purchase tickets online, on Icelandair flight, or upon arrival
- One way from Keflavik to – 2400 ISK / ≈22 USD
- Round trip from Keflavik to – 3900 ISK / ≈35 USD
- 45 minute ride
- Free wi-fi
» Quick Tips
- Currency: Icelandic Króna
- Language: Icelandic (although you can safely get around Reykjavik with English)
- Population: 330,000 – yes that’s in the whole country!
- Known For: The Blue Lagoon, Northern Lights, safest country in the world.
- Cost: Expensive (one of the most expensive cities in Europe)
- Tipping: none!
[PoF: English is actually their third language, after Icelandic and Danish, but the locals speak it reasonably well. Those Scandinavians are some smart folks!]
» Where to stay in Reykjavik
I can’t stress enough the importance of booking accommodation ahead of time. With the spike in tourism, it’s not unheard of to see hotel and guesthouse listings unavailable. Take my advice and book in advance!
An AirBnB ($40 off for you) rental could be a great option for families since most of the listings can be very affordable.
Here are some other great choices:
» How to get around Reykjavik
By foot | Reykjavik is pretty small as far as capital cities are concerned. I am confident that you can easily enjoy the city by foot. Public transportaion is also not as good as most major cities, but there are options.
By bus | The bus system in Reykjavik is called Strætó. You can buy a single fare with cash or a package of tickets. Tickets must be purchased in advance, not while on board the bus. Check this site for a list of places that sell bus tickets.
- Adult single fare: 440 ISK / ≈4 USD
- Children 6-18 single fare: 210 ISK / ≈2 USD
- Children 0-5 single fare: Free
- 20 ticket pass: 8300 ISK / ≈76 USD
- One day pass: 1560 ISK / ≈14 USD
- Three day pass: 3650 ISK / ≈33 USD
You also might want to consider the Reykjavik City Card. Choose between 24, 36, or 72 hours of unlimited travel on city buses, plus admission to major attractions and discounts at certain restaurants and shops.
By taxi | The two major taxi companies in Reykjavik are Hreyfill Bæjarleiðir and BSR. They are more or less priced the same, so it doesn’t matter which company you use. Taxis run by the meter, and accept all major credit cards.
- Hreyfill: +354-588-5522
- BSR: +354-561-0000
» What to do in Reykjavik
The good news is there are a lot of free things to do in Reykjavik. Simply strolling the downtown streets you will find yourself falling in love with the city. Colorful buildings and old houses gives Reykjavik a quaint feel.
The main sights | Window shopping on Laugavegur (the main street in downtown), Hallgrimskirkja church (the view from the top gets you the best look over the whole city!), the sun voyager, and the Harpa concert hall. The good news is most things are free! Read this guide for details.
Walking Tour | Learn about the Viking settlement in Iceland with this FREE walking tour hosted by City Walk! For two hours, a guide will walk you around the city – rain or shine! Even thouh it’s free, you must reserve your spot ahead of time.
For the more adventurous | If you’re up for a day trip, there are lots of beautiful options within a couple hours of the city. Waterfalls, beaches, and jagged cliffs – there’s something for everyone!
» Food & drinks scene
For authentic Icelandic breakfast | Icelanders are not huge on breakfasts, but they are coming around. Common breakfast offerings at a hotel would be hard boiled eggs, cold cut meats and cheese, and fresh tomato and cucumber. Out and about you can find open sandwiches or a quick pastry item from one of the delicoius local bakeries.
For lunch and dinner | Don’t miss out on kjotsupa (lamb soup) which you can find in a lot of restaurants and cafes. Also, Icelanders love hot dogs. The most famous place is a small stand called Bæjarins Beztu. When you order, say “eina með öllu” (one with everything) to get the full experience with all the toppings – ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onion, raw onion and remoulade.
Traveling on a budget? Iceland is very expensive for food, but there are options if you know where to look! Check out this free e-book with seven places to get cheap food in Reykjavik.
For snacks and dessert |
- Licorice flavored anything is a staple with Icelanders. That’s right – salty black licorice, they go crazy for it! The most common form are pastilles by a company called Opal. To ease the blow of salty licorice, I highly recommend þristur – a licorice bar dipped in chocolate. It’s WAY better than it sounds!)
- There is something amazing about the Icelandic ice cream, so don’t leave the country without getting some! It doesn’t have to be fancy, some of the best ice cream I’ve had has been from gas station soft serve machine! For handscooped ice cream, try Valdís or Eldur and Is.
- As with all Europeans, cakes are a very common dessert. All cafes will serve a variety of cakes, and you can guarantee that they are homemade!
- Omnom is a local company that makes delicious craft chocolates that come in a variety of flavors.
[PoF: Omnom is also the sound my mouth makes when I eat delicious craft chocolates]
For drinks | Coffee lovers rejoice! Iceland has the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world so make sure to head into any of the small local cafes for a cup of joe.
If you’re into beer [PoF: I am!], you’re in luck – Iceland has a lot of small craft breweries of all kinds of flavors. I personally recommend Einstök and Borg brews. You will find Gull and Víking on tap everywhere – the local light beer. Bryggjan Brugghús is a new micro brewery that recently opened up near the harbor and they have delicious food and lots of craft beer on tap.
And whatever you do, do NOT buy bottled water! In Iceland you can drink the water straight from the tap – it’s from the glacier!
» Traveling with kids
[PoF: I am!]
The National Museum and The Settlement Exhibition are both fun options for kids because they are both quite interactive. They also have a play area where kids can dress up as characters from Icelandic history.
I’m also a big fan of the Árbær open air museum. On a good day, it’s just nice to walk around check out the turf houses and they way Icelanders used to live.
Whales of Iceland is a great option for kids to learn all about whales. It’s a really interactive exhibit with replicas of the whales overhead.
*Many museums have free entrance for kids so that is an additional bonus!
Tjörnin | Tjörnin is a big pond in the middle of downtown Reykjavik. Besides being a cute area to walk around for fresh air, it’s also fun for kids. Ducks and geese flock to the shore where people are always bringing breads for them to eat.
The pools are a huge part of Icelandic culture. Adults and children alike love to meet at the swimming pools on the weekends for some family fun. Some pools have big slides or a play area, all very kid-friendly.
Outside of Reykjavík you will find more touristy places like the Blue Lagoon, Secret Lagoon and various hot springs.
Petting Zoo |
What child doesn’t like the zoo?! Just note that the Reykjavik zoo has Icelandic animals only – no lions or mokeys here! There’s also a small train, fair activities, and playgrounds. The zoo is right in the middle of Laugardalur valley which has beautiful botanical gardens in the summer. It is also home to the biggest pools in Reykjavik. You could easily spend a day in this area!
Get your fill of Icelandic nature with this beautiful 30 minute film that highlights the incredible landscapes around Iceland. A great way to get a taste of Iceland and tempt a return visit!
No matter what you choose to do or see in Iceland, you will have a great time. Icelanders are friendly, the food is delicious, and the laid back culture will make you feel right at home.
[PoF: That means “have a good trip,” the Iceland version of “Bon voyage!” And yes, we will! Thanks again for the overview.
Post-publication update: We enjoyed our visit, although the weather was not exactly ideal. See our full trip report on Reykjavik and Paris here.]